With decades of business creation and succession experience, Barry serves of of counsel with the Cobb Law Group providing our clients with sound legal solutions for all of their business needs. Barry has the unique experience which involved serving as in-house counsel for both privately-owned and publicly traded business as well as successfully starting and selling his own business. His experience and expertise benefits our clients immeasurably. In addition, Barry is a registered mediator and arbitrator in commercial disputes.
In counseling small business CEOs regarding the extraordinary business challenges currently facing their companies, a daily test is keeping up with the flood of new requirements, restrictions and revisions affecting every aspect of their operations and work environment. Some have the attitude of “all bets are off” during this unprecedented time and “we’re doing what we have to do, when we have to do it” to survive, regardless of the ramifications. They’re hoping to receive forgiveness from contractual, regulatory and other “normal” obligations given the unsettled environment. While perhaps understandable based on the current circumstances, this is not a wise approach.
The fact is, risk management is even more crucial in these uncertain times. Letting your guard down as a leader and hoping for leniency and understanding is beyond risky – as the saying goes, “hope is not a strategy”. Responsibilities remain as companies struggle to manage a largely remote workforce with overarching health and safety issues and potential supply chain disruptions due to the rapid onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Those responsibilities span a broad range and include updating employee handbooks, corporate policies and procedures to maintain accountability while providing flexibility in the current environment. Below are some important areas to address:
- Evaluate existing contracts to determine if your company can continue to meet obligations if suppliers fail to perform and cause a breach of your own responsibilities. Review cancellation provisions and prepare to issue required notices earlier than later.
- Communicate frequently with your customers and share your best assessments of how your own performance may be impacted. Understand each other’s rights and obligations, provide honest assessments and work together to devise back-up plans. This is the best insurance for avoiding future client problems and disputes.
- Speaking of insurance, review your current coverage for any assistance with business interruption. Most coronavirus impacts may not be covered, but evaluate terms and know what insurance benefits you do and don’t have to depend upon.
- Pay particular attention to federal and state initiatives affecting worker’s rights as related to illness and leave policies. This assistance may offer significant support for maintaining your existing workforce for as long as possible.
- Effectively communicate and implement the latest and best practices to include current CDC updated guidelines and requirements for a workplace environment.
- Review your compliance under OSHA regulations and its recent clarifications applicable to pandemics and providing a safe workplace with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other provisions if required.
- Ensure your IT structure is robust enough to support the necessary level of access, data backup and retention of documents with a remote workforce.
- Maintain open lines of communication with your financial providers, regulatory agencies and other entities that have a direct impact on your company’s ability to perform in this ever-changing environment.
A key to business survival is maintaining enough runway and flexibility to manage through this emergency. Because the goal posts keep moving, you must continually adjust and fine-tune your approach.
My father used to remind me that “the moment of absolute certainty never arrives.” While it’s difficult to find any reasonable certainty for how to navigate the current crisis, continually balancing the evolving reality with remaining as prudent as possible – even through the current unprecedented environment – will best protect your company. Don’t count on all bets being off afterwards.